Those in the Kingdom are [the Body of] the King

July 11, 2014

[Sunday’s sermon included eight statements summarizing Jesus’ teaching, as it culminates in the story of the sheep and the goats:

  1. Jesus is the King
  2. Your Eternal Destiny Depends on Jesus
  3. Those in the Kingdom are Blessed by God
  4. Those in the Kingdom Inherit the Kingdom
  5. Those in the Kingdom Walk with the King
  6. Those in the Kingdom are the King
  7. Those in the Kingdom Love Those in the Kingdom
  8. Those Not in the Kingdom will Suffer with Satan

The sixth statement is easily misunderstood. A more accurate summary statement would be “Those in the Kingdom are the Body of the King.” Here is an expanded and clarified version of that point – Coty]

 ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

(Matthew 25:40)

What is Jesus saying here?

First, let’s clarify who “my brothers” are.

Some time previously Jesus’ mother and half-brothers came to see Him. While He was teaching, someone informed Him of their presence. Jesus replied:

“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)

Jesus says those who are disciples, those who obey the Father, are in His intimate family. These are His brothers.

Similarly, in Matthew 28 the risen Jesus speaks to the women at the tomb, saying, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10).  Jesus isn’t instructing them to tell everyone they see, or every Jew they see, or His physical half-brothers to go to Galilee. Rather, Jesus is calling those who follow Him, those who obey Him, to go to Galilee. These are His brothers. These are the people Jesus identifies with so closely that whatever you do to one of them is done to Jesus.

Our Lord makes a similar statement in Matthew 10, when He sends out His followers to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand: “Whoever receives you receives me” (Matthew 10:40). Someone who welcomes and shows hospitality to Jesus’ followers is indeed receiving Him.

Furthermore, recall what the risen Christ says to Saul (soon to be renamed Paul) on the road to Damascus:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4-5)

Who was Saul persecuting? As far as we know, Saul never encountered Jesus during His earthly life. However, we learn in Acts 8:

Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3)

Saul is persecuting the church, the followers of Jesus – and Jesus says, “You are persecuting ME!” As Saul did it to one of the least of these, Jesus’ brothers, he did it to Jesus.

So Jesus’ followers not only take on His character. They not only are welcomed into the Kingdom. They not only are His subjects. They not only are His agents, His ambassadors. They are His Body (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:29-30). And as His Body, a good deed done to them is done to Jesus. Harm done to them is harm done to Jesus.

Now push this a little further. Each part of the body has an ability and a responsibility to serve the rest of the body. The eye can see, helping the foot know where to step. The digestive system breaks down food into nutrients the entire body needs.

If you follow Jesus, if you treasure Him, if you see Him as your Savior and Lord, you are part of Him, part of His Body. And because of that identity, because of the blessing of what God has done for you by grace, you now are able to meet some needs of the Body of Christ – and so to serve Jesus, who has no needs in and of Himself.

  • So when you visit your sick brother or sister in Christ – you are ministering to the Body of Jesus.
  • When you provide food to a hungry follower of Christ – you are feeding the Body of Jesus.
  • When you help your persecuted fellow believer – you are aiding the Body of Jesus.
  • And, when you are hurt or sick or hungry or persecuted for His sake, and others minister to you – they are ministering to the Body of Jesus.

Marvel at these truths – and then step out to love your brothers and sisters, because He first loved you. Love like Jesus. Love the Body of Jesus.

 

God is Independent, Sovereign, and Sustainer of All Creation

July 4, 2014

By Fred T. Balbuena

 The act of creation declares that God is not a part of, nor dependent on His creation. This is crucial to our understanding of the nature of God.  It describes that He is eternally in fellowship within the Trinity and nothing can come close to this kind of relationship.  It establishes not only the “being” or “personal nature” of God as a talking God, but it makes God unique in such a way that He is not in need of anything outside of Himself. It is due to this relationship that makes God uniquely other, or “one of a kind”. God is not dependent on anyone or anything.  He is absolutely free. God is the only source of everything and He is not dependent on anyone else for anything at all. Therefore, nothing compels Him to do anything outside of Himself. He was free and unrestricted in the act of creation.  In other words, nothing determined or shaped what He brought into being. J. I Packer says, “How everything was designed was purely God’s own idea.”[1] He is the one who gives life and everything else in the universe gets their life, existence and purpose from Him.  The Geneva Catechism also explains this doctrine remarkably well. It says:

 “This term does not imply that God created his works at once, and then threw off the care of them. It should rather be understood, that as the world was once made by God, so it is now preserved by him, and that the earth and all other things endure just: in as far as they are sustained by his energy, and as it were his hand. Besides, seeing that he has all things under his hand, it follows, that he is the chief ruler and Lord of all.”[2]

 We see more evidence of the essential nature of the doctrine of creation through the teaching of Irenaeus (175-185 CE) against Gnosticism. For Irenaeus the doctrine of creation displays God’s continual government over the world, particularly over the “Churches” from every tongue, and tribe, and people and nation. It is the belief in “One God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and sea and all things that are in them that must unite the Church in the whole world.”[3] For Irenaeus, the truth which expresses God’s authorship of all reality must be kept or preserved carefully in spite of diverse languages where Churches had been planted. He says:

“As the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth.”[4] Thus, the doctrine of creation is one point of doctrine, which must be imported everywhere to understand the nature of God, which guides our faith, preaching, and our worship.

The Bible affirms that God did not simply create the world and then left it to itself to run its course. This is absolutely contrary to the Deist’s[5] idea of the nature of God. The entire creation as they claim is like an old clock that does not need any more intervention from its Creator. However, God is very much involved in creation.  He remains involved in the world and in everything he created, particularly in the lives of people he formed in his image.  Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29–30). Thus the God of the Bible is not an abstract deity who is removed and uninterested in everything He created.[6]

We also notice this emphasis in John Calvin’s teaching which is found in the Institutes of the Christian Religion: Book 1 Chapter 5, “The Knowledge of God Conspicuous in the Creation, and Continual Government of the World.” This chapter is divided into two major parts. The first part deals with the knowledge and nature of God that is displayed in creation. Here Calvin argues that God’s invisible and incomprehensible attributes are made visible to some extent in creation. He maintains that the intricacy of the universe and the complexity of the human body portray God’s providence, power and wisdom. Furthermore, God’s omnipotence, goodness, justice and mercy are clearly displayed in the way He created man endowing him with a soul.[7] The second part deals with consequences. If man ascribes to these admirable arrangements, then the whole order of things is left to fortune or chance. Calvin argues that the endless and irreconcilable opinion of the philosophers concerning how God created the world primarily corrupts pure religion. By allowing their ideas to influence our thinking about the glories of nature is extreme stupidity and blatant rebellion against God and is deserving of punishment.

The book of John in the New Testament also affirms this truth even with animals and plants. “In His hand are the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). The Apostle also affirms that God is continually “upholding the universe by His word of power”(Hebrews 1:3). “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25). God is constantly sustaining everything in the universe with life and that “in Him we live and move and we have our being” (Acts 17:25, 28). Christ is the One in Whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Everything that happens in the world is directed by God. This is true even to the point that the falling of a hair or a sparrow is directed by God, no less then the birth and death of Princes, or the revolutions of empires. (Matthew 10:29, 30). Creation then will not continue to exist apart from God’s sustaining power.  This is not how God the creator is depicted in the Bible. The ongoing existence of all creation depends on the powerful hands of God through all the seasons, and in every second of every day.

How shall we make sense of the horrible things that happen in the world under the watch of God who reveals himself as the all-sufficient, sovereign, sustainer of the world? Is he really capable of bringing about his purposes and what is best for the people he created? Isaiah 40:26 says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.” In the book of Jonah God commands a fish to accomplish his plan (1:17), he commands a plant to grow (4:6), and he also commands a worm to kill it (4:7). Far above the life of worms and the stars, God’s command is what holds everything in its place. Below are seven exhortations from John Piper that can help us relate this theology of God into our lives.

1. Let us stand in awe of the sovereign authority and freedom and wisdom and power of God.

2. Let us never trifle with life as though it were a small or light affair.

3. Let us marvel at our own salvation — that God bought it and wrought it with   sovereign power, and we are not our own.

4. Let us groan over the God-belittling man-centeredness of our culture and…    the church.

5. Let us be bold at the throne of grace knowing that our prayers for the most difficult things can be answered.  Nothing is too hard for God.

6. Let us rejoice that our evangelism will not be in vain because there is no sinner  so hard the sovereign grace of God cannot break through.

7. Let us be thrilled and calm in these days of great upheaval because victory   belongs to God, and no purposes that he wills to accomplish can be stopped.[8]

 

 


[1] J. I. Packer, Affirming the Apostles’ Creed (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), pg. 55.

[2] “Historic Church Documents at Reformed.org,” Center of Reformed Theology and Apologetics, 1996, quotation, accessed January 13, 2011, http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe= http://www.reformed.org/documents/calvin/geneva_catachism/geneva_catachism.html.

[3] “Irenaeus– Against Heresies,” ColumbiaUniversity in the City of New York, Book 10, accessed April 12, 2011, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/irenaeus/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Deism is a view that God, the Supreme Being, does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the natural laws of the universe.

[6] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), pg. 267.

[7]  “John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Internet Christian Library. Accessed February 16, 2011. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes/.

[8] http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-sovereignty-of-god-my-counsel-shall-stand-and-i-will-accomplish-all-my-purpose